The Mah’uzeed

Characters:  Dunstan Kordieh

There was a man of confused and sad nature
Thought no one loved him that was not true
He said he was a lost soul didn't fit in anywhere
Didn't know where to turn or who to turn to ..."
     -- "Lost Soul," words and music by Bruce Hornsby

The sharp brightness of early morning sunlight fell across Kordieh’s face, waking him. Thought I closed those drapes, came the sluggish, weary thought. Don’t want to see any light. He lifted his head enough to look toward the window, and saw Sech Nelier standing there, still holding one ¬†corner of the curtain.

Once he could tell that Kordieh registered his presence, he dropped it and said, “Dunstan Kordieh. We have missed your presence in classes, these past three days.”

“I’m sorry.” It was an effort to speak, one that he didn’t really want to make, as much as he respected Nelier. He wondered if he would be subject to some punishment. It might even be welcome. “It just … didn’t matter.”

“It seems that very little has mattered to you since Miss Belden was here.”

“Not really.” There was a part of him which wanted to explain to Nelier, to make him understand, but the rest knew there would be no point. Revisiting his madness and being able to see it from the outside had been horrifying.

Far worse was to know that what had happened to him had never really been in his control, that his psyche had been warped from birth and no one had seen the damage until it was far too late. The Minbari certainly understood it. But most humans — definitely the ones who had been affected by what he had done — would probably never see it that way. They would insist that somehow, Dunstan himself should have seen what was wrong and changed it.

The worst part was Dunstan found himself thinking that too.

“We have decided what is to be done with you,” Nelier said. “And we could wait no longer for you to come to us, so I have come to you.”

“What is it, then?”

“Come and find out.” Nelier smiled.

Kordieh looked down at his feet. He’d rather just stay here. What did it matter anyway? He was a traitor and murderer, and no one would ever see him otherwise, save perhaps one. And she was gone now. She had gone, and the chances were good she wouldn’t come back. They’d both seen their future together, but time did not come with guarantees.

He looked up again. Nelier was still standing there, still smiling. “Ready now?” the Minbari asked.

“I suppose.” Kordieh sighed. He stepped off the bed, put out a hand to steady himself from the momentary dizziness, then nodded to Nelier. “Let’s get on with it.”

They walked out of the dormitory, away from the buildings and fields that made up the Anla’shok training ground. The temple was nearby, a hive of activity as dozens of Minbari workers were rebuilding it. Kordieh at first thought they were going to join them, but almost at the last moment Nelier veered away, taking a side path down into a garden.

Kordieh struggled to keep up. He knew Nelier was walking slowly to accommodate him, but even so he often stumbled and slipped a few steps behind. The hunger which he thought he had beaten after not eating for five days suddenly returned, doubling him over in pain.

As he took several deep breaths and managed to straighten up, he looked at Nelier. The old Minbari had backtracked and was standing near, ready to support him, a gentle, compassionate smile on his lips.

Kordieh’s face reddened in shame. You are a fool, Dunstan Kordieh, he thought. A self-indulgent fool. The Anla’shok risk their lives to serve others. Nelier and the other Minbari are risking their standing to help you. And all you can do is lie back and wait for your self-pity to kill you?

“Forgive me, Sech Nelier,” he said.

“There was no offense, so no need of forgiveness, Dunstan Kordieh. Are you ready to continue?”

Kordieh nodded. What else was there to say?

Nelier finally stopped, in front of another building. It was unusual, even for Minbari architecture: a three-sided pyramid with steps that spiraled around it from the ground to the summit, which was open to the sky. At the foot of the steps was a door. The building, like the grounds around it, had apparently suffered from an air strike — it was scorched and burned along two of its three planes, steps were broken or missing, and the door leading in — a wrought metal gate — was twisted and hanging from one hinge.

“This is a mah’uzeed,” Nelier said.

“What is it for?”

“It is a meditation tool.” Nelier stepped through the door, propping it open with a fragment of stone. As Kordieh followed, he saw the steps on the inside wall, spiraling around the edge just as on the outside. They were slightly damaged, but it was the walls that had suffered most, with crystal mosaics and dozens of candle holders broken and lying in pieces on the floor. “One begins here, and walks the path — up through the inside, then down through the outside until one is back at the beginning.”

Despite himself, Kordieh began to feel. The architecture of the mah’uzeed reminded him of experiments he’d drawn and modeled, years ago when he’d dreamed of becoming a civil engineer. So long ago, it feels like another life.

From those studies he knew that every building has a purpose, and he was beginning to be curious about the philosophy behind this construction. “What does this have to do with me?”

“You will restore the mah’uzeed. You may follow any design you wish, and we will furnish you any materials you ask for. You have no other responsibilities, and we allot you one full cycle to complete the work.”

Kordieh’s eyes fully opened for the first time since Nelier had wakened him. He desperately searched for something to say, managing only, “Me?”

Nelier nodded, then said, “There are two rules, and only two. The first rule: You must do this work by your own hand, except where to do so would endanger your safety. This is meant to heal you and to create something of value to balance what you in your madness destroyed. It is not meant to punish.”

Kordieh nodded. Maybe, if he could do the work well enough, it could at least dim some of the hatred he knew was directed at him. Maybe he could make something even he could be proud of. “What is the second rule?”

“Every day, before you begin the work, you must walk the mah’uzeed.”

“Walk it? Why?”

“It will be part of your healing. Part of your meditation. It is not so damaged that you cannot walk it right now, if you were in condition to — which, in fact, I know you are not.” Nelier turned and walked away.

“Sech Nelier, wait!” The old Minbari turned, startled. He had never heard that much passion in Kordieh’s voice. About anything.

“Kordieh? What is it?”

“I’m going to try anyway,” he said, and turned from where he stood in the doorway of the mah’uzeed, putting his foot on the first step.

(C) 1999 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.

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